Out of what is a veritable feast of players currently approaching the end of their current contract there is little doubt that CSKA Moscow attacking midfielder Keisuke Honda has to be one of the most eye catching options on the table. The Japanese international is approaching the final 12 months of his four-year-deal signed in January 2010 after his move from Dutch side VV Venlo.
The 26-year-old is reportedly ready to test himself in mainland Europe and a deal to follow in the footsteps of the original Japanese football pin-up Hidetoshi Nakata in Serie A with Lazio was on the cards but he decided not to leave giving an almost Cantona-esque reason as to why:
"Initially I'd planned on showing off my skills at the World Cup and leaving Russia after half a year, but since then two years have passed. It's like running 30 kilometres in a marathon to find out that you're off your pace. If you're running behind, you might look for a different path to take. If I hop on a car the rest of the way, I'll still struggle to reach my goal. If my pace is slow, I have to run faster. And in that respect I won't go to Lazio."
Essentially Honda has not quite kicked on the way most people hoped he would after a brilliant World Cup in 2010 where he caught the eye as the ‘Japanese Ronaldo’. He was declared the 2011 MVP at the AFC Asian Cup but this season he has struggled with CSKA and has also had to battle niggling injuries over the past 18 months. Recently CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky criticised his form after an elusive performance against city rivals Lokomotiv Moscow:
“Honda can decide the result of a match on his own, but unfortunately games like that with a performance from him haven’t happened, today we expected a certain contribution from him, but it never came.”
So while he is clearly not setting the world alight like he once was and has had his injury worries why should clubs in the Premier League buy him?
Reason A … Price. The 26-year-old is about to enter Robin Van Persie territory in terms of his contract. With a year remaining in his current deal CSKA will be looking to cash in on him this January before he can discuss a Bosman deal in the summer. Therefore there may be some bargaining leverage in the buying clubs favour.
Reason B … Marketability. Southampton have become one of the most popular teams in Japan thanks to their recent acquisitions Tadanari Lee and Maya Yoshida. In the past the likes of Park Ji-Sung and Junichi Inamoto have been decent marketing tools in a thriving market. Honda is one of the biggest stars in Japanese football. With his good looks and changing hairstyles he is something of a Japanese Beckham and the amount of income ‘Brand Keisuke’ could bring a Premier League club is huge.
Reason C … He is a canny footballer. Off form? Maybe. Injury prone? Maybe once. Still class; of course. Any team in the Premier League would be blessed to have his talents and combined with the other two factors there are at least three very good reasons why Premier League clubs should be looking at Keisuke Honda.
Would you like your side to sign ‘The Emperor’?
image: © yoppy